Really, who knew?
In what appears to be the opening round of a rearguard action against what leftists used to call "the good war" (only because they felt they needed to pretend they had pro-war bona fides to make their anti-Iraq War arguments look stronger to the general populace), the New York Times's Christopher Drew reported last Saturday for the Sunday print edition that sending more troops to Afghanistan as General Stanley A. McChrystal has requested might cost tens of billions of dollars.
High Costs Weigh on Troop Debate for Afghan War
While President Obama’s decision about sending more troops to Afghanistan is primarily a military one, it also has substantial budget implications that are adding pressure to limit the commitment, senior administration officials say.
The latest internal government estimates place the cost of adding 40,000 American troops and sharply expanding the Afghan security forces, as favored by Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, the top American and allied commander in Afghanistan, at $40 billion to $54 billion a year, the officials said.
Even if fewer troops are sent, or their mission is modified, the rough formula used by the White House, of about $1 million per soldier a year, appears almost constant.
So even if Mr. Obama opts for a lower troop commitment, Afghanistan’s new costs could wash out the projected $26 billion expected to be saved in 2010 from withdrawing troops from Iraq. And the overall military budget could rise to as much as $734 billion, or 10 percent more than the peak of $667 billion under the Bush administration.
Such an escalation in military spending would be a politically volatile issue for Mr. Obama at a time when the government budget deficit is soaring, the economy is weak and he is trying to pass a costly health care plan.
.... At a stop at a military base in Alaska on Thursday, Mr. Obama told a gathering of soldiers that he would not risk more lives “unless it is necessary to America’s vital interests.” He added during his visit to Tokyo on Friday that he wanted to avoid taking any step that could be seen as an “open-ended commitment.”
The administration said Friday that it planned to cut up to 5 percent at domestic agencies in fiscal 2011 as part of an effort to reduce the federal budget deficit, which rose to $1.4 trillion with the economic stimulus and financial bailouts.
All of a sudden the administration has found a place where spending money is a problem. They're quibbling over a net spending increase of $14-$28 billion (between $40 billion and 54 billion minus $26 billion), a net amount that would be about 0.4%-0.7% of the government's annual spending rate of $3.5 trillion per year.
Oh, it's not a problem when hundreds of billions go into a "stimulus" program that hasn't stimulated anything except howls of outrage over misdirected funds, exaggerated results, and reports of billions going to non-existent congressional districts. It's not a problem when discussing having the government take over health care. It's not a problem when funneling funds into two failing car manufacturers, one of which just reported a "managerial net loss" of $1.2 billion in its first period under government control despite having walked away from almost $30 billion in debt and getting at least $50 billion in government aid, the vast majority of which was taken into income by its bankrupt predecessor.
And of course the administration has coupled this with telegraphed plans for significant cuts elsewhere that no one believes will ever happen, and the mere mention of which will bring out howls of protest from bureaucrats and leftist constituencies who will make sure they never happen.
This should be seen as yet another stage in the seemingly endless Afghanistan dither that has been on since summer. The president seems to want to find something, no matter how specious and contrived, to justify not giving McChrystal what he wants. That the Times is providing boot-licking assistance should surprise no one.
Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.com.